How to get true business class on flights to New Zealand

By John Walton, October 16 2012
How to get true business class on flights to New Zealand

New Zealand is the number one destination for Australian business travellers, but it's not exactly brimming with true business class seats -- wide, comfortable, plenty of legroom, international-grade seats -- for that hope across the pond, a journey which take up to five hours if the winds are against you.

On Qantas, you're stuck in the domestic recliners as shown below, although the availability of Qantas' next-gen check-in on trans-Tasman flights a boon for business travellers with carry-on only.

Virgin Australia has no business class on these routes, offering only its old "middle seat-free economy" seating on its Boeing 737s. Air New Zealand does likewise on its Airbus A320s, with business class appearing only on the larger Boeing 777, 747 or 767 jets on some Auckland flights.

However, there's still a way to enjoy international-standard business class flights between Australia and New Zealand.

Savvy travellers with a bit of flexibility in their schedule can take advantage of the pond-hopping flights offered by  several international airlines out of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to enjoy larger, more private seats and more space.

This kind of international business class often means you'll have a table big enough to use your laptop to get some work done, a full meal so you can hit the ground running (or head straight to bed) on arrival, and  AC powerpoints to keep your laptop or tablet charged up.

(They're also great for stealing a good couple of hours' snooze to keep yourself fresh if you're on an early or late flight.)


Emirates has the widest schedule of international-standard business class trans-Tasman flights.

Heading to Auckland, Emirates runs an A380 every day from Sydney and Melbourne.

These have fully flat beds with direct aisle access in a staggered seating layout, plus a fantastic business class bar at the back of the upper deck if you want to stretch your legs and socialise.

There's a large table for your laptop, side table for your papers, a power point to keep everything charged and even a personal minibar.

We've reviewed the Auckland-Sydney Emirates A380 flight in business: find out why we like it so much.

Emirates also sends a Boeing 777 to Auckland from Brisbane and to Christchurch from Sydney, which has an angled lie-flat business class seat in a 2-3-2 layout -- definitely comfy enough for a trans-Tasman hop.

AusBT reviews Emirates Sydney-Christchurch flight in business: see what we thought of the service.

These are relatively early morning flights to New Zealand and early evening flights back to Australia -- useful for fitting in an afternoon meeting the day you arrive, or nearly a full day's work the day you leave.

Full Emirates Skywards miles -- and, once the Qantas-Emirates alliance takes shape in 2013, Qantas Frequent Flyer points -- are on offer, as are Emirates' top-notch lounges in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Auckland. (Christchurch flights use the airport-owned Manaia lounge, which is less impressive.)

We've got seat recommendations for you too: in business class on Emirates' A380 superjumbo and on the 777-300ER.

Air New Zealand

Most Air New Zealand flights across the Tasman use smaller, all-economy Airbus A320 planes.

But here's the trick to getting international-standard business class: any Air New Zealand flight to Auckland from Australia with an NZ flight number in the 100s is on a Boeing 777, 747 or 767, where you'll find the better seats.

(We've previously outlined how Air NZ's Australia flights work, including how to snag a international premium economy seat upgrade for free if you're a frequent flyer.) 

By comparison, flight numbers in the 700s run on  Airbus A320 services which offer only regular economy seats with a bit more legroom and nobody next to you.

It's worth noting that 100-series flights with the better seats are often swapped -- on the weekends in particular -- for the 700-series Airbus A320 services.

(An example of the way that the swapping schedule works: the Sydney-Auckland 3.30pm departure is a more comfortable Boeing 767 as NZ118 on Thursdays, Sundays and Mondays, but an all-economy Airbus A320 as NZ718 on all other days.)

Air NZ's Boeing 777s have the best seats, with herringbone-style seating with direct aisle access in a 1-2-1 layout on the newest 777-300s: these are the flights to pick if you can.

These Business Premier seats are Air NZ's top offering worldwide, with a large table, power point, wide range of in-flight entertainment and a decent amount of elbow room in a private seat with walls separating you from the person next to you.

The 747 and 777-200 are the next best, with an older version of the same seat.

Same seat, just a bit less chic.. Phillip Capper
Same seat, just a bit less chic.
Phillip Capper

Air NZ's Boeing 767 comes a distant fourth -- these are fairly standard recliners slightly more comfortable than you'd find on a Qantas Boeing 737, but they're laid out in a 2-2-2 configuration that means you can snag an aisle seat and have nobody climbing over you.

(Note that the four-digit NZ flight numbers in the 7000-series are on Virgin Australia's planes -- like the Air NZ A320s, these don't have business class at all, with "middle seat free economy" the top offering.)

Check out the best seats to pick in business class on Air New Zealand's new 777-300, older 777-200 and 767 planes. 

Air New Zealand flights are eligible for Virgin Australia Velocity Frequent Flyer points and status credits, and its lounges in Auckland and Australia are serviceable (if not quite up to Emirates' or Qantas' standards).


LAN's daily flight between Sydney and Santiago bounces through Auckland en route.

The long trans-Pacific leg means it's often subject to delays, so don't necessarily rely on it if your schedule is time-critical.

The schedule shifts by a few hours depending on which countries are in daylight savings but LANs' services are usually an early morning flight from Auckland (0605 this time of year) and a morning flight back from Sydney (0925 this time of year).

LAN uses an angled lie-flat seat in a 2-2-2 layout, which is great for getting some work done or having a mid-morning snooze to make up for the early start.

Since LAN is a oneworld member, you'll earn Qantas Frequent Flyer points and status credits for the flight, and you'll be eligible to use Qantas' lounges on both sides of the Tasman – including the superb Sydney First Lounge if you hold Platinum status with Qantas.

Check out our review of the Sydney-Auckland LAN flight in business class -- plus what we think of the Qantas Sydney International Business Lounge -- and make the most of the world-beating Qantas First Lounge with our expert guide!

China Airlines

The newest entry on the route is Taipei-based China Airlines, which will run a four times weekly hop from Sydney to Auckland and thrice weekly from Brisbane to Auckland.

Sydney flights are a 1240 departure from Kingsford Smith and a 1900 return from Auckland, while Brisbane flights depart at 1205 and return from Auckland at 2050.

On board, China Airlines offers an angled lie-flat seat in a 2-2-2 configuration on an Airbus A330.

China Airlines doesn't have Australian frequent flyer partners, but you can earn on its SkyTeam alliance members like Delta. 

Business class passengers can use the Qantas Business Lounge in Sydney (though not officially the Qantas First lounges, since it's not a Qantas, Jetstar or oneworld flight). In Brisbane and Auckland, it's the Air New Zealand lounge.

Have your say...

Have you flown these airlines across the Tasman? What did you think? Share your thoughts with other AusBT readers in a comment below!

Want the very latest business travel news as it happens? Twitter's the answer: and we're @AusBT.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

19 Sep 2012

Total posts 6

Good summary- Although I'd say that the Air NZ 767 recliners being a distant fourth is a bit harsh, when you're going trans tasman and not sleeping a great big recliner is just as comfortable or better than the herringbone seats more suited to sleeping that sitting.

19 Sep 2012

Total posts 6

Also if they are fourth what's third?


15 Apr 2011

Total posts 580

The 777-200ER and 747 are tied in second, which means there is no third ;)


15 Apr 2011

Total posts 580

The best thing about the Emirates flights is the fact that they are often half empty! Not good for the airline, but brilliant for the travelling public!

05 Apr 2012

Total posts 2

I don't know about accessing the QF First lounge in Sydney if you're travelling in business.  I'm a Gold FF and was travelling Business on QF to AKL in September and wasn't permitted in the First Lounge in Sydney.  I was politely directed ot he Business Lounge.

Is this different if I'd been travelling on LAN?


24 Apr 2012

Total posts 21

You can only get into the First lounge in Sydney if you are flying first class or are a Platinum FF. I am pretty sure that Lan business passengers use the business class lounge unless they are Emerald Oneworld FF.

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